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Farr, Rohrabacher Tell Holder: Cool It on Pot Prosecutions

Two California lawmakers want Holder's Justice Department to back off federal prosecutions in medical marijuana cases. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Two California lawmakers want Holder's Justice Department to back off federal prosecutions in medical marijuana cases. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has one foot out the door, but it’s not stopping House lawmakers from making demands on the head of the Justice Department.  

In a letter Wednesday, California Reps. Sam Farr, a Democrat, and Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican, called on Holder to halt federal prosecution of medical marijuana patients and providers in states where use of the drug has been at least partially legalized. Farr and Rohrabacher contend those actions contradict current law: A provision they introduced and later saw included in the fiscal 2015 omnibus appropriations bill specifically bars government money from being used for such a purpose.  

“No reasonable person would agree with the Department’s interpretation of the amendment,” Farr said in a statement. “The DOJ can try to parse its wording but Congress was perfectly clear: Stop wasting limited funds attacking medical marijuana patients.”  

“The continuing prosecution of these cases,” Rohrabacher added, “represents a clear defiance of the will of the people, as represented by the United States Congress. Good people, as a result, are victimized by their own government.”  

When Rohrabacher and Farr originally introduced the amendment to the fiscal 2015 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill on the House floor last summer, it won support from a rare and diverse bipartisan bloc , a signal that attitudes were beginning to change about pot use — at least for medical purposes, and at least when it came to using federal dollars.  

When it was later included in the full-year funding bill, it was accompanied by language that may or may not block a ballot initiative legalizing certain marijuana use and possession in the District of Columbia, a sign Congress is still struggling with the parameters of regulating the drug.  

In their letter to Holder, the lawmakers cite a Los Angeles Times article from April 2, in which a DOJ spokesman contended that the amendment didn’t preclude the agency from pursuing cases against individuals or organizations, in this particular instance three medical marijuana dispensaries in the San Francisco Bay Area that are being targeted for forfeiture.  

“As the authors of the provision in question,” Farr and Rohrabacher penned to Holder, “we write to inform you that this interpretation of our amendment is emphatically wrong.” Read the full letter here.

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